Category Archives: Music Scene

Merry Christmas 2014 – FREE Seasonal Music for Readers of the RDC

As a “Merry Christmas” to our sweet friends on this venue, I’m sharing all the files from a 2004 Christmas album my friends at Cherokee Hills Christian Church and I recorded at the University of Central Oklahoma Jazz Lab.  Thanks to Paul Eastland, Sam Pappas, Mark Hinderliter & Brandon Smith for the good work.  Peace, Merry Christmas and Blessings to you this Season!

P.S.  When you right-click the links, you can then “save as” to your own computer and keep this music as our gift to you! Continue reading Merry Christmas 2014 – FREE Seasonal Music for Readers of the RDC

Delo Creative: A Masterful Mix of Art, Vision and Edge

Let’s pretend for a moment, shall we? Here’s the scenario:  Creativity, Ingenuity, Possibility and Camaraderie are sitting in a room together and they’re deeply entrenched in a discussion.  On the coffee table lies a deck of Polaroid cards, each representing a “turning point” in the time-space continuum of Life.  All night long they’ve been shuffling the deck, cutting it, then taking turns drawing their next subject.

Their game?  To decide which of them was most influential in the particular scenario at hand.  Their current discussion revolves around this card, a snapshot of a red haired teen at a rock concert.  Here’s the turning point:

George Salisbury is a seventeen year-old kid who had been working in a screen-printing shop.  He had just produced a good number of Flaming Lips t-shirts, gone to one of their shows, somehow got to Wayne Coyne and said, “I’ve got this box of Lips shirts here, um, I just want to sell them and split the profits with you.” And Coyne replies, “Well, we’re out of shirts – so, okay.”

Possibility suggests it was him, mixed with a degree of Risk. He made that moment work, turning it into what eventually became a long-standing relationship with the Flaming Lips as the contemporary driving force behind all their visually creative production (posters, videos, Gummy Skulls, etc.).  Creativity and Ingenuity roll their eyes and posit that there wouldn’t have been a product in the box had it not been for them. Continue reading Delo Creative: A Masterful Mix of Art, Vision and Edge

Five Reasons Why I Absolutely Hated the X-Factor Finale Show

50 cent & one of many crotch shotsI’ve not seen one episode of the X-Factor until tonight.

I only watch about 2 hours of TV per week during the semester so during the winter break I try to relax while watching a few select shows. I was a speech, drama and debate teacher for eight years so I really love talent shows. They remind me of auditions for our Spring Musicals, only on a massively grandiose and incredibly bankrolled scale.

Thus, I tuned into the X-Factor Finale show. As the show progressed I grew incredibly uncomfortable. And, exponentially even more uncomfortable as hour number two of the show rolled around. Here are my complaints in order as the show progressed:

1. 50 Cent, Astro (evidently from the X-Factor talent pool) and the LA Lakers led a musical rap-type number that was backed up by dancers whose costumes looked like Playboy Bunnies without the ears and tails. The choreography for the women was overly seductive, including women helping women out of bathtubs, gyrating against a grand piano, bending over with their buttocks in seductive positions and gyrating against, and toward, the singers on stage. (The photo above was captured off a screen shot from a hand-held video uploaded on YouTube.  It’s rough, but it demonstrates a bit of the point I’m making.)

One word: ick. The number was sexist, revolting and was played out like a bedroom fantasy in front of America’s families. The women were portrayed as hyper-sexualized while the men were held up as nothing more than the lead stallions of their own private herd of fillies. Sickening…on so many levels. Perhaps the lowest point for me however, was when the young male “Astro” was highlighted in a metaphorical anointing from 50 Cent. The meaning was clear: “Here boy, this will all be yours now. Learn well, and do me proud.”

2 & 3. More of number 1…in two other places: A) A woman played in the snow, encased in a giant snow globe, as one of the final contenders sang; and, B) Another number similar to what was described in my first point performed by Bulldog and Ne-Yo. And yes, they were backed up by more women with beautiful bodies, dancing in just-barely-less-seductive dances than the first number.

But then…they all took their jackets off for the second half, and their black-laced, see through body suits gave exactly the same message. More of the same, with the 50 Cent and the Bulldog led numbers taking up at least 15 minutes of the show total. Was the message clear? Absolutely. Was it received by millions of young girls and boys across the U.S. and possibly the world? Probably. And I’m just so incredibly sad about that.

4. A short commercial highlighting a Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah shocked me. Queen Latifah looked as radiant and strong as usual, but I got two quick glimpses of Dolly’s face…and I must say, I can hardly recognize the highly awarded County and Western Star. Dolly has had so many facial procedures that she looks like a caricature of her former self. Everything that is wrong about cosmetic procedures was evident – the “wolf” grin (widened mouth due to face lifts), “fish lips” due to collagen injections, and unfortunately, jokes interjected into the script to make up for the problem. You know when the writers have no choice but to say out loud what the audience thinks that things are bad.

Dolly – I love your voice, I love your spirit, and I sorely miss whatever face you would have naturally progressed toward by this time. RIP sweet Dolly aged face. Wish I could have known ya.

5. Finally, the finish of the show. This gets me every time when it comes to American Idol. The problem with the X-Factor is, however, that the ante was ramped up five-fold. A FIVE MILLION dollar contract is awarded to the winner who clearly was emotionally undone by the announcement. As was her family and friends in the audience who rushed the stage. As was the normally cool Simon Cowell. No one was in control of their faculties and that’s perfectly normal. Yet, Continue reading Five Reasons Why I Absolutely Hated the X-Factor Finale Show

Christmas Pipes: My Pick of the Top Female Christmas Recordings of the Last Half-Century

When my mind drifts to Christmas music, I’ll frequently hear Bing Crosby crooning, Nat King Cole smoothly balladeering, or perhaps Mark Lowrey’s “Mary Did You Know.”

But when I focus my thoughts on what female artists have contributed to the Christmas recording repertoire this past half-century, I’m truly amazed.

I’ve decided to open up a discussion about the most influential, powerful or classic female Christmas recordings. Below are my selections of true difference makers in the Christmas recording world. There are sixteen in all.

I’ve started with the ones I feel are relevant, but as you near the end of the list you’ll find the ones I feel “win” in incredibly amazing ways.

I’d love to hear your own opinions as well, so please feel free to keep the discussion going as we near our Christmas Holiday. All the best, Red Dirt Kelly


Noted by some as “the best voice in the world,” Sissel sings an arrangement of “In the Bleak MidWinter.” She’s backed up by the Mormon Tabernacle choir. Her simplicity is where her power lies.

At a time when it was extremely rare to see African American women highlighted on T.V., Mahalia Jackson’s 1961 performance of “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” is indeed music to my ears. I wish the quality was better, but at the same time, perhaps it helps us realize that we’re traveling back in time to be at her side as we listen.

Noted for her unusually creative videos and simple, sweet voice, Regina Spektor’s “Because its Christmas” is trendy and pure. Continue reading Christmas Pipes: My Pick of the Top Female Christmas Recordings of the Last Half-Century

Am I Fooling Myself?


I attended a self described “Old Man Concert” recently under a hot Oklahoma night sky. Styx and Yes were playing at the Zoo Amphitheater. Music from the 70’s and 80’s, you say? Definitely old guy stuff in the modern era.

After the show was over and the lights came up, I had a “paradigm improvement” on what it may mean to be “an older man”.

A few years back, admittedly when I was younger, I would frequently talk with some colleagues about my job as a “younger man’s game”. I thought it wise thinking, and it sounded good when I said it, but I think I was fooling myself. Allow me to attempt an contextual explanation:

I was first introduced to “Styx” at around the age of 9. My dad was was a High School Principal at a small school district in East Texas, and he had the task of approving the theme song for the senior banquet. They picked “Come Sail Away.” It was 1975, and current band leader Tommy Shaw had just joined the band at the ripe old age of 22. My dad put the 33 LP on his Realistic/Radio Shack component stereo turntable, and the soft ballad began. We sat in the living room listening, and my dad (an easy listening music fan) was surprised and pleased by the tune. Two verses later, the real rock started. Continue reading Am I Fooling Myself?

Sherree Chamberlain’s Quarter-Life Crisis: A Journey Down Her Musical Path

Sheree Chamberlain singing at the OKC Farmers Public Market, 4-07-11

When you sit in an espresso bar like Coffee Slingers, the spot you choose determines how you can then divide your attention.  Sit by the window? Watch life pass by on the sidewalk or streets outside, or perhaps carry your gaze across the shop interior and watch the scene inside.

Sit behind a laptop? You’ve just planned to fade the espresso bar and exterior buzz, and crank up your “inner brain buzz” for a bit.

Sit across from Sherree Chamberlain?  Be prepared to take the metaphorical hand she reaches out to you, walk by her side, and hear what she’s been up to for the last nine years.  At least this process was my own experience a few weeks ago when I met with her.  Armed with our drinks (she had tea, I drank an iced latte) and carrot muffins, we settled in for some catching up.  The last I had seen of Sherree in person was while I was working with her as her secondary schools Drama Coach during our production of “Oklahoma!”  I learned at least two things that year:  1) Never test the fullest load shotgun blanks by firing them inside a university auditorium for the first time; and, 2) Sherree Jane Chamberlain could sing. Continue reading Sherree Chamberlain’s Quarter-Life Crisis: A Journey Down Her Musical Path

James Taylor and the Civic Center Music Hall: A Review

Once in a while I get the opportunity to see a show where I can sit back, relax and simply enjoy the quality of the musicians in front of me.  Last night at the Civic Center Music Hall was such a night.  The star of the show, James Taylor, assembled a band of tremendous musicians, all stand alone artists in their own right.

On drums was Chad Wackerman who, oddly enough, was the drummer for Frank Zappa at the first concert I saw at the Civic Center in 1984.  It is probable that he does not recall the venue as it has changed considerably since then.  But the incredible acoustics have not changed.  Chad was just a kid when he was playing for Frank but appears to have aged very little in the last 27 years.  Combined with percussionist Luis Conte the rhythmic interplay of last night was extraordinary.

Often times when watching artists perform their songs, whether live or on television, the harmonies are not quite on.  Not last night.  JT had four backing vocalists and the harmonies were absolutely glorious.  Not just pitch-perfect, but very nicely blended with only James voice standing out.  I wish I could tell you their names.

James played the songs you would want him to play and appeared comfortable between songs, telling stories and giving the history of several.  He told the same joke before playing Up On The Roof as in the youtube link I attached to my post of April 26.  Still, his interplay with the crowd was endearing.  After a short intermission he signed autographs for anyone who could manage to make it up to the stage.  The concert started at 8-ish and lasted until about 10:20 with a 20-minute intermission.

The first half of the show before intermission was musically tight and very impressive for live.  After intermission the band seemed a little more loose, moved around the stage and seemed intentional on having a bit more fun.  Yet still tight and impressive.

For me, the highlight of the night happened just before the band left for an encore.  They started to leave but James called the vocalists back.  He said, “I’ve always wanted to play this song in Oklahoma” and began to play Rogers & Hammersteins “O What A Beautiful Morning”, a song my co-workers and family suffer with me singing just about every time we go outside.  There was no suffering last night; five vocalists and one acoustic guitar played in typical James Taylor phrasing.  Really very nice.

Music from the Man Cave – James Taylor

My beautiful wife is taking me to see James Taylor at the Civic Center Music Hall tonight.  I have to say, for a heavy metal guy I’m pretty excited.

James Taylor recorded some of the great songs of the 70’s and 80’s.  And I can add another great musician to the list of great musicians I’ve seen at the Civic Center; not an extensive list, Frank Zappa and Jethro Tull, but what terrific shows.  And the renovation of the Civic Center a few years back has truly made it, once again, the crown jewel of central Oklahoma music venues.

So get your “Handyman” chores done, grab the one you tell “You’ve Got a Friend”, don’t go to “Mexico” but jump on your “Steamroller” and meet us downtown tonight with “Your Smiling Face”!  And click on the link below to watch James doing his rendition of another superb Carole King song. (click photo to see video)

Music from the Man Cave: Chronology of My Concert History at THE INCOMPARABLE MYRIAD

I stayed up way too late last night watching a rockumentary about Rush on Palladia.  I love Palladia; it’s what MTV could have been.  I think it may be owned by MTV.  Nevertheless, there were musicians from several other bands talking about Rush and the influence that band had on their own music.  I started thinking about the times I’ve seen Rush and how they are kind of a man cave band.  I’m not sure why women don’t dig Rush like guys do….maybe you’ll enlighten me.
Anyway, that train of thought led me to man cave music and eventually to the concerts I’ve seen at, as they used to say, “The Incomparable Myriad!” Naming rights to the building have since been sold to Cox Cable but it’s still the Myriad to me.

My first concert there was in 1977 while I was just in 7th grade.  I could not imagine turning my 7th graders loose in a venue that large….not sure what my Mom was thinking but we both survived the experience.  And, I saw Led Zeppelin on their last North American tour.  Yes I did.  For $7.  John Bonham, if memory serves, played his orange chrysolite Ludwig drums and had a platform that rolled to the front of the stage for Moby Dick.  That and Jimmy Page being surrounded by a cone of lasers while he played his Les Paul with a violin bow are about all I remember…..but I was there DUDE! Continue reading Music from the Man Cave: Chronology of My Concert History at THE INCOMPARABLE MYRIAD

Music From The Man Cave: Sunny Sweeney “If I Could”

There is a lot to be said for music that makes listening fun.  A lot of folks really take themselves and their music WAY too seriously.  There is also a lot to be said for music that you stumble across accidentally.

Yahoo! used to have a “radio” website and one of the stations they offered was called Americana.  I love just about anything categorized as Americana so I tried out the station and was introduced to all sorts of artists I’d never heard on commercial, broadcast radio.  And are they missing out!  Consequently, the rest of us may also be.

So, in an effort to…no, to heck with the grandiosity.  We’re in the man cave so I’ll try to keep it real.

This song is a short little blast of joy called “If I Could” from an artist named Sunny Sweeney that is part rave-up, part rockabilly and a whole lotta toe-tappin’.  Let me know what you think!

Music From The Man Cave – Introduction and “Gamma”

"Gamma" photo from the Davey Pattison Gallery:

Several months ago I was cooking breakfast for the kids.  It was a weekday morning before school and my wife was getting ready for work.  Kind of an oddity, I suppose, around our house (my wife is a chef) but on weekdays it is either me or my son who cooks breakfast.  I suppose we cook out of necessity since one of us is usually dressed and ready before the girls make it downstairs.

Anyway, I decided to have a little breakfast cooking music and put on my vinyl copy of Thin Lizzy’s “Live and Dangerous.”  One of the finest “live” albums ever released.

Yes, I know it has studio overdubs.  I don’t care.

Soon after, my wife came downstairs, looked at me, smiled and proclaimed, “You’re such a guy.”  Reflecting on that moment gave me an idea: Music from the Man Cave.  Recommendations by a guy for other guys.  Not that girls can’t listen too….

First up (we’ll get to Thin Lizzy soon, I promise) is a blast from my past.  I acquired a cassette copy of the second album from a band called Gamma, featuring Ronnie Montrose on guitar, Davey Pattison on vocals, Denny Carmassi on drums, Glen Letsch on bass and Jim Alcivar on keyboards.  This cassette spent a lot of time in my Walkman knockoff and I rediscovered it a couple years back.  It has a terrific remake of Thunderclap Newman’s “Something In The Air” but the song that I really want to recommend is called “Voyager”.  You can buy it for .99 on iTunes, or check out the YouTube clip at the bottom of this post.

“Voyager” is an amazing song Robin Trower is still kicking himself for not writing. Continue reading Music From The Man Cave – Introduction and “Gamma”

Childhood Journey to Rock Heaven, Zeppelin Style

by Joey Rodman

I can’t quite remember what I got for Christmas last year. Or the year before.  And definitely not the year before that.

In fact, for the most part I can’t remember what I got for Christmas for the last ten years. (No offense to my husband I promise.) I can however, remember what I got for Christmas when I was six years old.

You see, those gifts changed my life.  I remember finding them in my mother’s closet…

I had waited until she was asleep on the couch to go poking through her room. I knew my presents were in there because she had forbidden me from setting foot anywhere near her small closet about a week before. I might have been six, but I wasn’t an idiot; something was hiding in there.

Continue reading Childhood Journey to Rock Heaven, Zeppelin Style

Okie at the Rally To Restore Sanity and/or Fear

For some while I’ve believed that the most revealing political show on television is, without a doubt, Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” on cable television’s Comedy Central.  At first blush, this is an absurd statement to make.  The Daily Show is, after all, a comedy show on a comedy channel hosted by a long running comedian.  But Jon Stewart’s wit and intellect, coupled with the show’s ability to strip issues to their core and reveal the underlying truth (often through parody and exaggeration) is a one-of-a-kind gem.  Though occasionally criticized – probably fairly – for leaning a bit left of center, the show owns no set allegiance and is quick to shine it’s revealing light on topics sensitive to political ideologues of either side.  Case in point… his “Working Stiffed”skit poking hypocritical fun at a Union in Nevada.

Beyond commentary on daily political events, The Daily Show is also a serious production with serious guests covering a long string of serious topics.  Republicans and Democrats alike wait in line to be interviewed by Jon, as well as major scientists, entertainers and authors.  Heck, in a two-week period Jon featured lengthy and thoughtful one-on-one interviews with both Condolezza Rice and Barrack Obama.

Why does the show draw such political opposites?  One reason only: it’s fair.  In between his often hilarious side jaunts and quick witted friendly jabs and instant self-deprecation, Jon asks real questions and allows his guests the courtesy and time to give serious and developed answers.  In a world where cable networks have joined sides, run to the fringe and focused on sound bites or hyperbole, The Daily Show is a small breath of fresh air; it tackles serious topics, allows for details and nuance, and wraps it all up in highly entertaining edgy irreverence.

So when Jon announced on a recent show that he was going to hold a Rally To Restore Sanity on the DC lawn, an obvious play on Glenn Beck’s Rally To Restore Honor that had taken place in the same location a few weeks earlier, I was searching airline prices within minutes.  When his Comedy Central colleague Stephen Colbert, in his own show immediately following Jon’s, announced a simultaneous and competing “Rally To Keep Fear Alive” … I knew I had to go.  This event immediately appeared to be this generation’s Woodstock for mildly disenchanted but fun-loving and optimistic middle of the road pacifists.  How can you possibly say no to that?

So with that, my airline tickets were purchased and on the late afternoon of Friday, October 29th, I was on my way to DC for a rapid fire two-day trip to enjoy the Rally on the 30th.  With a late arrival on the 29th I just grabbed a cheap hotel, but the following morning I got together with my friend and former Normanite, Allison Smith, her son, and her fiancée John.  We started the day out at a great local breakfast Diner and then headed toward the Mall.  This turned out to be a great place to have the advice of locals, because they knew where to catch a bus and roll right to the Lawn trouble-free.  I heard many reports later of a completely jam-packed Metro system, and some of my friends had trouble even getting there.

Fortunately for us, we made it to the rally just in time and found…the biggest crowd I’ve ever been part of in my life!  Size counts eventually put the crowd at 250,000 making it the largest DC rally this year by a factor of approximately 3.  Clearly Jon and Stephen had struck a chord with this event.  So, we tried our best to make it near the stage on 3rd street, or at least to the satellite stage on 5th street.  7th street was as far as I got, and I also got completely separated from Allison and John in the process!…something we all thought might happen. Fortunately we had a meetup plan for later.

Being four full blocks from the stage, you’d think there might be room for comfort.


Every once in a while I could move a half-step; most of the time I could not.  It was truly a can of sardines.  I could only catch an occasional glimpse of the video screen, and had to wonder about the people behind me – the crowd extended for another four full blocks.  A few brave souls even took to tree climbing for a better view, which allowed me the opportunity to catch this wonderful video of some dude climbing a truly difficult tree.  It was painful to watch.  Catch the crowd with their impromptu “Yes You Can!  Yes You Can!”.  Awesome.

Click photo to start "Tree Climbing 'Yes You Can!'" video.

The rally itself was only three hours long and most of it was music and some silly skits between Jon and Stephen.  The Roots gave a full half hour performance, and were followed by one of the stars of MythBusters who conducted several crowd experiments – the best of which was a “wave” of vocalized “wooooo’s”.  But my favorite music performance of the day was a duel between Cat Stevens representing Jon, singing Peace Train, and Ozzy Osbourne representing Stephen, singing Crazy Train – ultimately resolved by the O’Jays with the song Love Train.  Adding to the start studded cast were Cheryl Crow, Kid Rock, Tony Bennett, and even a guest appearance by Kareem Abdul Jabar.

After a solid two and a half hours of fun, Jon took the stage to make a more serious speech.  Jon’s a comedian, and consequently is a pretty silly guy most of the time.  But every so often he gets serious.  One of the finest “serious moments” was his appearance on CNN’s Crossfire a few years ago.  Recruited to come on the show, be funny, and talk about The Daily Show – he decided to do anything but.  Instead he took the show to task HARD, and flipped in on it’s lid.  (click here for a video link)  One week later, in a classic television moment, the show was cancelled!  Another time on The Daily Show he took liberal financial expert James Cramer to the carpet for his role in hyper-sensationalizing serious financial topics right up to the brink of the 2008 meltdown.  So though it’s a rare occurrence, it’s not unheard of for Jon to show a serious side.

Jon’s speech lasted about 15 minutes, and had a few spectacular lines.  My favorites… “If we amplify everything, we hear nothing”… and, “We live in hard times, not end times.”  His point of it all seemed to be that times are tough, but people are good and resilient.  The noise is just noise, no matter what cable news channels say, and the overwhelming majority of Americans are good people that work hard and together every day.  (link to full video and transcript)  Ultimately the crowd in attendance was plenty of proof of Jon’s point.  After the speech a mood of happiness took over for the next several hours as the crowd hung out and slowly drifted away.

At this point I found Allison and John again and we just took in the atmosphere – taking lots of pictures, including tons and tons of rally signs.  The photo gallery below contains my favorites, and here’s a precious video of Allison’s son learning how to dance to an impromptu trash can and bottle drummer.

Click photo to begin "Allison's Son Beginning to Dance."

So what was the point of the rally?  I believe it was, more than anything, simply a demonstration that in a world that sometimes seems to have gone mad, things in reality are pretty normal.  When 250,000 people of all ages, shapes, races, persuasions, and size decide to come together for a celebration of civility our national situation must not be as bad as the TV and radio seem to want us to believe.  As for Jon himself, I’ve concluded that he’s a bit of  Mark Twain character for our generation.  A great author, funny man, and somewhat liberal observer of a mankind.  I’m glad we have him around.

So it was a wonderful weekend.  A nice Ethiopian meal and breakfast at the same Diner capped off the weekend and before I knew it I was flying home happy.  Many thanks to Jon and his 250,000 friends, and to my two friends Allison and John for a great weekend that I’ll never forget.

Let’s finish up with a photo gallery!
Click any image for a larger view, and to enter a slide presentation format.


Want even more signs from the rally?
Here’s many more at

Real Men and Waking Up Early

As I sit here basking in the glow of my 13 inch computer in an otherwise dark room this morning, I’m reminded about one of what I consider to be one of the great tenets of manhood; that is, waking up early.

As a child and then a teenager, I was always amazed each morning at how early my dad woke up. No matter how early I got up each day, without fail, he would already be awake and laying on the couch wearing his Nike hoodie, reading the paper.

The funny thing is… the man is not an early to bed kind of guy. This is a man who regularly stayed up late to watch Letterman in its entirety. The even more amazing thing to me, that I’ve only learned in the past few years, is that he never uses an alarm clock.

I never understood that facet of my dad’s life until recently. You see, for most of my life I’ve told myself a story that wasn’t true. And while I’ve definitely told myself many stories that aren’t true, the story I’m talking about right now is the that I was not a morning person.

For most of my life, I’ve been a snoozer. When I was a kid, my parents had to institute a 10 a.m. reverse bedtime during the summers and weekends to prevent me from sleeping all day. And boy did I ever balk at that one. In college, if I didn’t have early morning classes, I could (and often did) sleep until 10:40 or so no matter how late I stayed up.

That was my sleeping in pattern for most of my life.

A few months ago, that all changed. A guy who’s blog I read, posted about the idea that each of us has several internal stories (plural) which may or may not be true that we tell ourselves which make up our STORY (singular).

I’ve always been a firm believer that our lives are stories, and his post got me thinking about my life and the stories I’ve told myself that maybe weren’t true.

The timing of that post couldn’t have been better. Just a few days earlier, I’d heard a man speak at a luncheon who’s own story really resonated with me. A very successful business man and person of faith, the speaker spoke on the importance of being a man of discipline. A man of discipline himself, he spoke about how men of discipline wake up early: A) because it’s difficult; and, B) because life is short and sleeping through too much of it really is a waste.

The combination of the post about the stories we tell ourselves that aren’t always true and the idea that men of discipline wake up early couldn’t have intersected more perfectly in my life. I left the luncheon thinking to myself, “Self… I want to be a man of discipline even if that means waking up early.”

And so that night, I set my alarm to go off the next day at 5:00 a.m. When it went off, I got up. I read a few chapters of a book I was reading at the time, I prayed, I sat in silence, and I ran a mile. Despite the fact that I was exhausted by 2 p.m. that afternoon, it was a great experience.

It wasn’t until a few days later when I read the aforementioned blog post that I was really able to articulate what I’d already been feeling about my own story as a morning person. Since that time (it was last November) I’ve been re-telling myself that story almost every day when my alarm goes off and I stumble out of bed at 5, 5:30, or (on bad days) 6:00 a.m.

As Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Waking up early has been a great help in my attempts to stop and look around every once in a while.

Some mornings I go for a run. Some mornings I take a walk. Some mornings I read. Some mornings I write. Some mornings I reflect on who I am or what I’m accomplishing. Some mornings I think about my marriage. Some mornings I talk to God. Some mornings I just listen for his voice. And some mornings, (rarely but still occasionally) I waste almost 2 hours perusing the Facebooks, or the Twitterz, or my Google Reader RSS subscriptions.

I’m hesitant to say that waking up early has changed my life, but honestly, I can say I’ve seen a marked improvement in my quality of life since last November when I started waking up early.

As a man, I think there’s something deep in my core that calls me toward self-improvement and challenge. Waking up early, though really a small thing, has been a challenge that I’ve taken on successfully. Not only have I had more time to myself each morning for personal and spiritual reflection and development, but each day I get out of my bed before the sun comes up, I reinforce the idea that I have control over and can change the stories I tell myself.

The little victory I’ve had over my sleep story has started to make me question other questionably “true” stories that I’ve been telling myself for too long. It’s amazing how one little victory combined with a few more early morning hours of introspection each day can make all the difference in helping us become the men we want to be.

For me, realizing I could wake up early was not only a victory over a very real physiological and mental myth in my life, but it was also one of many early steps in my realization that I still had a long journey toward becoming a real man… a journey I’m still learning from and enjoying almost every day before most people are even awake.

Sometimes a real man does things that are difficult simply because of the discipline it takes to do so. I want to be a real man. I want to be a man of discipline. For me, a big part of that means I wake up early.

What about you?

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch: He’s Home

Yesterday, I couldn’t wait to get home.  But as eager as I was to see my own home on a Friday afternoon, I was looking forward to an evening away from home on Saturday night…with someone who really knows how to appreciate coming home.

I met Bryan Hayes about five years ago.  I had just started teaching at the school where he worked as PE coach.  He did not appear to fit into the coach role.  He had long hair and looked like he really hadn’t done a push up in awhile.

As a couple of school years came and went, however, I learned more and more about my friend.  He could play the guitar and willingly brought it along with his mellow voice and beautiful wife to many late night functions.

He didn’t just play the guitar.  He had a BAND:  Bryan Hayes and the Retrievers… not so odd of a name when you know that Bryan is an animal advocate.  He has a home full of rescued Labs of all shapes and sizes.

One day Bryan came to school without the rest of his hair.  I thought that maybe he had gotten into trouble somehow, but nothing could have been further from the truth.  Bryan had joined the Army National Guard.  This spring while most of us were living somewhat normal lives, Bryan was in Iraq.  This son, husband, uncle, friend, singer, and teacher was busy making sure we had a safe place to call home.

Tonight Bryan and his band stood on a stage and humbly entertained friends and family.  Wait. No.  He entertained family. Bryan Hayes, our brother, is home.

(Click the picture to watch Bryan and the Retrievers play “Lonesome Soldier.”)

Bryan and the Retrievers playing "Lonesome Soldier"